Archive for August 28th, 2011

Happy birthday to Martin Luther King’s dream

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

August 28, 1963 (Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute)

Today should have been the day that the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Then a bad-ass lady named Irene rolled into town.

The celebration has been postponed.  Nonetheless, a quieter memorial has been overlooked in the weather warnings: it’s the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

I reread the speech for the occasion – it’s no surprise that it’s considered one of the top speeches of the century.  It marked the height of the non-violent movement, and the beginning of its fall.

However, this surprised me too:  “I think one of the misconceptions people have about King was that all of his material was spontaneous and did not repeat,” said Stacey Zwald-Costello, assistant editor at the King Papers Project at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

“However, the opposite is true – he spent a lot of time preparing his speeches and often recycled material, using it in different places and ways in order to get his point across.”

So I also read the speech that served as a sort of rough draft – his June speech in Cobo Hall, Detroit.  I think I liked this passage the best (and I enjoy the italicized audience interjections!), which wasn’t included in the August 28 speech:

For nonviolence not only calls upon its adherents to avoid external physical violence, but it calls upon them to avoid internal violence of spirit. It calls on them to engage in that something called love. And I know it is difficult sometimes. When I say “love” at this point, I’m not talking about an affectionate emotion. (All right) It’s nonsense to urge people, oppressed people, to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. I’m talking about something much deeper. I’m talking about a sort of understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. [applause]

We are coming to see now, the psychiatrists are saying to us, that many of the strange things that happen in the subconscious, many of the inner conflicts, are rooted in hate. And so they are saying, “Love or perish.” But Jesus told us this long time ago. And I can still hear that voice crying through the vista of time, saying, “Love your enemies, (Love them), bless them that curse you, (Yes) pray for them that despitefully use you.” (Yes) There is still a voice saying to every potential Peter, “Put up your sword.” (Yes, Put up your sword) History is replete with the bleached bones of nations; history is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that failed to follow this command. And isn’t it marvelous to have a method of struggle where it is possible to stand up against an unjust system, fight it with all of your might, never accept it, and yet not stoop to violence and hatred in the process? [applause] This is what we have. [applause]

More here.